UMass football: Gino Campiotti embracing another switch from QB to tight end

By KYLE GRABOWSKI

Staff Writer

Published: 04-18-2023 3:37 PM

AMHERST – Gino Campiotti raced toward the front pylon. This year he met the football there from inside the end zone and hauled in a catch for a (spring practice) touchdown as a tight end rather than diving to score from outside like last season when he played quarterback for UMass.

The redshirt junior switched positions in the offseason after UMass coach Don Brown and offensive coordinator Steve Casula pitched moving him to a more athletic position. Their request produced some deja vu. Campiotti switched from quarterback to tight end after his freshman season at Northern Arizona before he transferred to a junior college to play quarterback.

“I felt comfortable in that switch when it happened. At that time, though, it wasn’t something I was very excited for. I was younger, I thought I was a quarterback,” Campiotti said. “After playing JUCO quarterback the way I played it, running the ball and all that, I knew as an athlete that was where I was going to make my money in football, as an athlete.”

Campiotti caught 14 passes for 137 yards and a touchdown with the Lumberjacks in 2019. He appeared in 10 games for the Minutemen under center last season, completing 45 percent of his passes for 257 yards with six interceptions. The Manteca, Calif., native also ran the ball 102 times for 390 yards and three scores.

“He was receptive to the move because football’s important to him. Some guys will tell you ‘I’m gone,’’” Brown said. “He didn’t. He took the move and he’s trying to make the most of it.”

Campiotti often played quarterback like a tight end. He rarely shied away from contact and enjoyed the physicality of running the football. That’s now a feature of his position rather than an aberration.

“Being able to play a position that’s actually physical on every snap, even running routes banging on the man defender or in the blocking game, it made football a lot more physical and in that I find a lot of fun, I find a lot of joy in banging heads with people and really competing every day,” he said.

But playing tight end for UMass is different than playing the same position for Northern Arizona. Fortunately, Campiotti found the perfect mentor in redshirt freshman Eni Falayi, a Williston Northampton grad from Peabody. They live together and have lockers next to each other.

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“We have a great relationship. He took me under his wing with this shift,” Campiotti said. “He can play football. Learning from him in this system has been important for me.”

The time Campiotti spent as a quarterback in Casula’s system informs how he plays tight end. He knows not only where he’s supposed to be but where everyone around him should line up and what UMass’ quarterback – still very much a competition for who that will be – is looking for on a given play.

“I knew where I wanted people to be last year,” Campiotti said. “I knew the concepts of our offense from a whole not just one position.”

Campiotti displayed all of the traits that enticed Brown and Co. to move him to tight end on the final play of Tuesday’s practice. He broke out of coverage at the line of scrimmage then hauled in an on-target pass and turned up field. The defense couldn’t collapse quick enough, and Campiotti burst into the end zone 60 yards later. When he turned around, the other 10 offensive players converged on him, chest bumping him and patting him on the helmet.

“There’s nothing in this world to me like love from your brothers, love from the people that you love,” Campiotti said. “Every dude on the field was there to pick me up. That’s 60 yards. They ran a long way because they wanted to show love, and really having dudes that can count on you while you count on them is so special. I feel so much love from these dudes.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.]]>